A couple watched in horror as a bus driver left them at the roadside and sped off – with their three-year-old daughter on board.
Shocked Kylie and Daniel Smith were struggling to collapse two pushchairs when little Sophie hopped onto the service and took a seat.
But the driver then told them there wasn’t enough room for their buggies – and drove off with the toddler on board.
Frantic Daniel sprinted after the bus but was unable to keep up so the couple rushed to the local depot to alert bosses at travel firm Stagecoach.
Officials made contact with the driver and he eventually pulled over after half-a-mile and returned to the station, where tearful Sophie was reunited with her parents.
Furious Kylie, 22, said: ”She could have been kidnapped or got off the bus and wandered away.
”She’s so upset she won’t even get on a bus now.”
The drama unfolded after Sophie caught the bus home from a day out in Cheltenham, Glos., last Friday (29/10).
She jumped onto the bus and sat behind the driver while her parents began to load on buggies for her sisters Charlotte, aged 10 months, and Holly, two.
But the driver told the couple there was no room for them on his packed service – and pulled away before they could board.
Before they could get his attention, he had driven down the road with Sophie still sitting patiently in her seat.
Kylie said: ”I couldn’t believe it. The doors closed and the bus started to pull away.
”My husband was shouting that our daughter was still on there on her own, but it didn’t stop.
”He ran after the bus, but couldn’t catch up.”
The couple dashed to the nearby Stagecoach office and alerted staff, who sent two colleagues to intercept the service.
But the vehicle had travelled half-a-mile from the lower High Street to Gloucester Road before staff succeeded in stopping it.
Kylie added: ”We were so relieved when Stagecoach managed to get her back for us.
”She was distraught. When she saw her dad she broke out crying.
”It took her a good hour to calm down. We had to walk home because there was no way she would get back on a bus.”
Stagecoach insisted safety was the company’s top priority and added it was investigating.
Spokesman Nathan Griffith-Williams said: ”We are investigating the allegations that have been made, although at this stage we are unable to confirm whether or not the claims are substantiated.
”We are a responsible bus operator and, based on our findings, we will take any appropriate action.”